Malaysia golf scores big with new 7-year agreement to host a PGA Tour event starting in 2010
A rather surprising announcement was made today in the golf world, and I’m not talking about more pinup babes popping up in a certain golfer’s private life.
I’m talking about the PGA Tour’s announcement that they’ve agreed to a seven-year deal to bring an event to Malaysia. Though tournament dates have not been announced, the event will be staged at The Mines Golf Club outside Kuala Lumpur, a course I haven’t seen first-hand but have been told nothing but tremendous things about.
Malaysia is a country that has gotten full-bore behind its golf product, which is more developed than many over in our hemisphere realize. There are over 200 golf courses in Malaysia cut often through dense jungle with swinging monkeys, flying squirrels and plenty of other bizarre, prehistoric sounds coming from the bush. Some of their older golf clubs still use a primitive-looking, weedy “cow grass” that is worth at least a walk on, even if you don’t play 18 holes on it.
While I’d probably opt for golf in Thailand over Malaysia for a repeat vacation, I think the golf courses like Saujana Golf Club and Tiara Golf Club are as good, if not more exotic than the Thai courses I saw around Bangkok, Pattaya and Hua Hin.
A year ago today i was actually in Malaysia, participating in a very popular amateur golf event, the World Amateur Inter-Team Golf Championship. Golfers from many countries including South Africa, Australia and Indonesia among many others take part every year, which is staged on some of the country’s top golf courses.
Malaysia isn’t a very strong tourist destination for Americans. When i was there, I was told more Americans visited before September 11th, 2001, but the numbers have been well down ever since. I’m guessing the Malaysian government is hoping the new PGA Tour stop will bring over more and more American golfers and media coverage. Last year, Anthony Kim played in the European Tour’s Malaysian Open, co-sanctioned by the European and Asian Tours, and was one of the few recognizable North American big names to compete. With a PGA Tour brand behind the new event and a $6 million purse to go with it, organizers are expecting some of the world’s top ten to be there.
One hurdle to climb will be where its placed on the schedule and how many players will be willing to fit it in their plans. At first glance, it looks like the only place it could go is sometime late in the season, November or December. Also, the event will be staged halfway around the world and Americans are quite spoiled when it comes to live sports (just look at the Sydney Olympics ratings). I’m not sure how much the needle is going to move watching tape-delayed golf action, especially if Tiger Woods doesn’t make it over there.
But in any case, the seven-year deal is a great step for Malaysia to brand its golf to the North American audience, and the PGA Tour can breathe a little easier knowing there are still buyers out there willing to pony up for an event - even if it is 12 time zones away.
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